Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Deadly Response to Medical Alert Focus of Upcoming Trial

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Deadly Response to Medical Alert Focus of Upcoming Trial

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - When Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.'s medical alert pendant accidentally went off five years ago, the 68-year-old told police who showed up that he was fine, barred them from entering his apartment and repeatedly asked them to go away. They didn't. That set off a tense, 90-minute standoff that ended with the mentally ill, former Marine, shot dead.

What lived on is a dispute over whether the black victim was an armed threat when a white officer fired his gun - the question central to a federal civil case set to go to trial this week.

The deadly 2011 encounter at Chamberlain's apartment in suburban White Plains - much of it captured on audiotape that will be played for jurors - was a precursor to the national debate over use of force by police in communities of color and in response to calls involving emotionally disturbed people.

Chamberlain's case combines both issues, said his son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., whose family filed a $21 million wrongful death lawsuit that went forward after a grand jury declined to indict the shooter.

The son calls his father a victim of "systematic racism" by law enforcement.

If the officers had been confronted with the same situation in a more affluent neighborhood, "It would have been Sorry to disturb you,' and they would have been gone," he said.

To bolster that point, lawyers for the family unsuccessfully sought to introduce tape of an officer, later fired, using a racial slur during the confrontation. The officer, Steven Hart, died last year in an auto accident.

The plaintiffs have also accused White Plains' Department of Public Safety of failing to properly train officers in how to deal with emotionally disturbed people.

The officers behaved "like a SWAT team," said one of the plaintiff lawyers, Randolph McLaughlin.

"They weren't trained to de-escalate, only to go forward," he said.

Lawyers for Anthony Carelli, the officer who fired the fatal shot, and the city of White Plains did not respond to requests for comment. …

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